Vandy Outlasts Gamecocks In 12-Inning Classic

The top ranked Gamecocks squared off against #3 Vanderbilt Friday night in the first game of a crucial three game series. The contest was billed as a pitchers' duel, and both staffs more than delivered in an extra innings classic. When the dust finally settled, Vanderbilt escaped with a 4-3 win.


The game featured two of the nation's best pitchers in Harris Honeycutt and David Price. Both pitchers entered the game undefeated on the season. Price is expected by many to be the top pick in the MLB draft, while Honeycutt has never lost a game in his career. The game had all the makings of a pitching duel, and both players lived up to the hype. Fittingly, both pitchers would leave the game undefeated as neither one was awarded a decision.

The Gamecocks came out determined. With a season-high 6,039 fans cheering them on, Carolina got three consecutive singles off Price in the first inning. James Darnell got the first hit, followed by Trent Kline and Justin Smoak. Smoak's single gave the sophomore first baseman an eight game hitting streak, and scored Darnell to put Carolina up 1-0.

The Gamecocks followed a similar path in the second inning. Andrew Crisp singled to lead off the inning, and a bunt moved him into scoring position, where Harley Lail singled him home.

The Commodores struck back in the fourth inning. Consecutive singles to start the inning set the table for Alex Feinberg, who hit a grounder back up the middle scoring one run. Crisp, who had just made an incredible grab on the previous play, let the ball roll under his glove and into deep center. The error allowed a second run to score, tying the game. Feinberg came up big again in the seventh inning when he drew a walk and eventually scored the go ahead run on a suicide squeeze. "I made some mistakes, and they made us pay for it," Honeycutt said after the game. "[Crisp] was trying to come get it, and it got away from him," explained Coach Ray Tanner. "Good teams will capitalize, and that's exactly what happened."

The Gamecocks squandered a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. Travis Jones hit the ball to deep center. David Macias, who put down the bunt that scored Feinberg in the top of the inning, dropped the ball, allowing Jones to get all the way to third base on the error. Reese Havens hit a fly ball to shallow center, which Macias fielded cleanly, and Coach Jim Toman sent Jones home, but Macias rifled the ball to home plate, where Jones was easily tagged out to end the inning.

With the top of the order coming up in the bottom of the eighth, the Gamecocks came up big. Lail drew a leadoff walk, and Kline added a single. Smoak then smacked his second RBI single of the game to score Lail and tie the game at 3. With runners on first and third, pinch hitter Drew Martin stepped to the plate. Facing Vanderbilt closer Casey Weathers, Martin came a few feet from ending the game when he blasted a pitch over the wall. However, the shot curved just foul, and Weathers rebounded to strike out Martin.

After three scoreless innings and numerous opportunities lost by both teams, the Commodores finally drove a man home in the top of the 12th inning. Macias hit a leadoff single and then moved to second with two outs. After 2 1/3 strong innings, Will Atwood gave way to Jeff Jeffords, who was charged with getting the final out of the 12th inning. Pinch hitter Ryan Davis smacked a line drive up the middle to push across the go ahead run. Jeffords got the next batter to ground out, setting up a do or die half inning for the Gamecocks.

Weathers' first pitch hit Lail, giving Carolina a free base. Darnell struck out swinging, bringing Kline to the plate. Kline hit a line drive to third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who fired the ball to first, picking off Lail to end the game.

"They had some opportunities, and we had some opportunities, and it was a great college baseball game," said Tanner. "We had trouble putting a lot of balls in play against Weathers, and that really was the difference in the game. We battled back when they took the lead, but they were better down the stretch.

Player of the Game: Vanderbilt pitcher Casey Weathers

Weathers pitched a career long 4 1/3 innings and tossed 7 strikeouts. Carolina had a few chances against the flamethrower, but he worked his way out of trouble each time. "He was throwing hard for a long time, and he kept us at bay," Honeycutt said of Weathers. "He was able to go get some guys when he needed to," Tanner said. "I hope I don't see him [again this weekend]. He's good, and we knew that coming in. Weathers was too good for us."

Key Moment:

In the top of the 12th inning, with two outs and a full count, Vanderbilt sent the runners on first and second. Pinch hitter Ryan Davis connected with the pitch and sent it back up the middle.

Notes:

- Vanderbilt played their third consecutive extra innings Friday night game. The Commodores had split their previous two contests.

- Vanderbilt pitchers struck out the Gamecocks 17 times, a season high for Carolina. "I would have thought it would have been more than that," Tanner said following the loss.

- Carolina is now 1-3 in extra innings games this season.

- All five losses for the Gamecocks are by one run.

- Pitcher Jordan Costner is not on the 25-man roster this weekend due to inflammation in his arm. "He's going to take a week or so and see if it goes away," said Tanner.

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